At least a year ago I was watching Diners Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network (aka starving artist porn). Guy, in all his frosted California hair ridiculousness, had landed in Santa Barbara at a place called Mac’s Fish and Chip Shop. As you might guess, they serve fish and chips, but not just any fish and chips – real authentic BRITISH fish and chips. How do you know? Because the owner/chef is legit from England, and let me tell you, he knows what he’s doing. Ever since seeing this episode I have wanted to go up there to try it, and the week my parents came was when it finally happened.
Now it’s always an… uncertain thing when one jumps aboard a hype train such as DDD. I mean, of course it’s bound to be good, but can it really live up to the glittering presentation that Food Network gives it? Can it really be THAT good? The answer is an emphatic yes. The restaurant, right on the main drag in Santa Barbara, is actually rather small, just a few tables, and set up like a real seafood sort of joint – counter service, with a flare of 50s chrome and a smattering of British flags. Being there for an early weekday dinner, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Immediately I was in love with the girl behind the counter with her frizzy red hair and her unflinching cheery responses to a myriad of questions about the food, the menu, her life, her taste in men, etc. Totally down to chat the entire time we were there – THAT is customer service you can’t fake.
Now you might think that the obvious thing to do at a fish and chip shop is to order fish and chips, but there was something else I had in mind that I had seen on that fateful Food Network show: Toad in the Hole. A yorkshire pudding filled with mashed potatoes, covered in gravy, and topped with two sausages. I’m sorry, what?? As much as I love fish and chips, where else could I possibly get such an absurd creation as this? I ordered it with the mushy peas (another British tradition) and I was in heaven. I will probably never order it again just because it was way way too much, but everything about it was outstanding – one of those things you have to do at least once. God those Brits sure know how to make mashed potatoes. I recommend splitting it with a friend… or three…
I did of course try the fish, which was made with fresh cod, my absolute favorite. I’m not normally a huge fan of battered fish (I like a flour coating), but I have to say this was expertly done. Crispy, light, well-seasoned. And at $10.50 for a full portion, it’s a starving artist homerun (not that I have ever played baseball in my entire life).
Though I had some very faint trepidation, I’m delighted to report that Mac’s truly delivered on the promises Food Network delivered. If you find yourself up in SB in need of some seriously good fish with equally good atmosphere, Mac’s is your place.
And ps – if you’re still in need of convincing, check out their website below. It’s hilarious.
Mac’s Fish and Chip Shop
503 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Click here to see my review on YELP.
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